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A coming-of-age story for Knoch's bowling team

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Knoch bowlers (from left to right): Tyler Laughner, Joel Zacherl, Zach Kaufman, Brett Miner, coach Tyler Hawk, Dylan Cimbala, Kevin Hindman, coach Jim Hindman

Fresh off of its first WPIBL and North Section championships, and a third-place finish at regionals, the Knoch boys bowling team still had a slight dilemma this season.

The Knights made the state championships for the first time, but they couldn't be sure that all of their players could attend the tournament.

Three of the team's six members — Brett Miner, Dylan Cimbala and Tyler Laughner — made plans a year in advance to head to Florida for a band trip.

But there was a way to work around it. After some desperate last-minute fundraising and permission from the school and band director, the players were permitted to hop on a flight from Orlando to Allentown. From there, they drove a little more than an hour to Ephrata, just south of Reading, the site of the championships.

The Knights took fifth place, an impressive finish for fledgling team in its third year of existence, and one that left third-year coach Tyler Hawk full of pride.

“They proved to the league that they deserved to be there,” Hawk said.

The Knights were led by 2012 state champion and third-year captain Kevin Hindman, who led the North Section with a 215.9 average, more than 17 ahead of the next-closest bowler.

“I was sure of what I could do, but I wasn't sure of how far the whole team could go,” said Hindman, who is a senior. “It makes you feel special when you can (do well) in the singles portion and then go and be successful with my friends.”

Solid performances from Miner, Laughner, Cimbala and sophomore Joel Zacharai were keys to the team's success, with each player averaging between 189 and 173 pins per game.

While the boys team was making a name at the highest level in the state, the girls team was putting itself on solid footing.

Whereas the boys had a full roster heading into their first season, Erica Johns, now a senior and third-year captain, found herself scrambling to get enough players to simply compete.

“The first year we had five players,” Johns said. “Three were friends that I begged.”

Those three friends had no experience bowling competitively, leaving Johns and Emily Rodgers as the only two experienced bowlers on the team.

In the third year, two of those bowlers, seniors Larissa Jack and Taylor Baptiste, remained with the team. The continuity and experience gained allowed the girls to finish third in the North Section, their highest finish.

Butler, which finished first, captured the state championship.

“The girls knew they were in a tough section,” Hawk said. “There were a couple of games this year they only lost by 50 points. They could've maybe beaten those teams, but they were happy finishing third.”

While the boys and girls teams developed at different paces, what set them apart was their atypically strong support of each other.

“Whenever matches were over, the boys and girls never moved from their seats. We stayed until everyone was done,” Johns said. “Other teams seem to pack up and as soon as they're done, they're done.”

And even without a championship, Johns said she was happy to have played on a full, competitive team and to follow the boys during their playoff run.

“I was so excited for the boys to watch them go on, to make it to states,” she said. “It was great.”

Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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